Friday, September 20, 2013

Non-negotiables: Handling my personal #debtlimit

I hate to publicly air my family's dirty laundry like this, but here goes.  Our family finances are in trouble.  I make less money today than I did in the late 20th century, but our expenses have skyrocketed since then. Predictably, we've accumulated a debt that we may or may not be able to repay, but that's not the worst of it.  The real problem is that our debt is growing at an unsustainable rate.  And the bank has taken notice.  We are almost out of credit.  When we hit our limit, circumstances will force draconian changes on us.

The solution is obvious.  There is only one thing to do.  We must convince the bank to raise the credit limit on our credit card.

Things have gotten so bad that my wife, bless her heart, suggested a family conference to discuss what to do about it.  I have to give her credit for "thinking outside the box," but when I heard what she had in mind, I had to put my foot down.  She had a long list of ideas:  1) maybe we could eliminate or scale back our cable and cell phone services; 2) perhaps we could choose the higher deductible health insurance option to lower our premiums; 3) maybe we should temporarily scale back or suspend the money we've been contributing to the local boy scout troop; 4) maybe we should cancel the lawn and maid services and start doing our own cleaning and yard work; 5) perhaps we could eat out less often or not at all; 6) maybe we should cancel the new furniture that we just ordered yesterday.

Apparently she doesn't understand that I am a man of principle.  When I make a commitment, I stand by it. Each of those expenditures she wanted to cut were decisions that we had made together.  I'm willing to talk about scaling back future purchasing decisions, but I told her in no uncertain terms that the one thing I will not negotiate over is whether we should pay the bills that we have already racked up.

She quickly agreed that we had to pay back our accumulated debt, but she tried to convince me that cutting ongoing expenditures is not the same thing as reneging on financial commitments.  If only it were that simple. For example, we've had cable tv and cell phone service in our house for decades.  Can you imagine how disruptive it would be to eliminate some of the channels that we've grown accustomed to watching?  The same goes for all those other expenditures.  She tried to argue that we might not have ANY cable tv if we don't choose a plan that we can afford before it's too late.   But I stuck by my guns.  We've already made those spending decisions, and those are in the past.  There's nothing we can do about that.  Those expenditures must continue to go forward as they have for years. Principle demands as much, and I am a man of principle.

Now, hopefully, she'll end her unprincipled obstructionism so that she and I can work together on a real solution -- convincing the bank to extend us more credit.  One thing is for sure:  I won't engage in any more family conferences to talk about that other stuff.  I'll maintain my integrity to the end.